A disagreement between a firefighter and a police officer over where to park a fire engine culminated in the firefighter being handcuffed and detained.
When a Ford Mustang overturned on Interstate 805 in February, firefighter Jacob Gregoire, 36, and California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer Sergio Flores were both amongst those who responded to the scene.
The city’s firefighters arrived on the scene first. When CHP officers arrived, they began ordering the firefighters to move their trucks out of the traffic lanes, or face arrest.
Two people were trapped in the flipped car. Gregoire was holding the gurney and was preparing to place one of the victims in an ambulance when Flores told him to move the rig.
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Gregoire recalls being “crushed” by the order, and not knowing what to think of it. He was simply doing what he had been trained to do: use the 42,000 pounds of steel to protect everyone at the scene of the accident from oncoming traffic.
“We’re delaying the care given to them because we’re spending time talking about where to park essentially,” Gregoire stated.
When Gregoire refused to move his vehicle, Flores placed him in handcuffs and led him to a police vehicle. He was released after being detained for about 30 minutes.
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Gregoire’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, cited the Incident Command System in asserting that Gregoire, as a firefighter, had command at the crash scene.
“My firefighter,” stated Gilleon, “had command at that point because there were sick and injured.”
“In my opinion, it all has to do with ego,” he continued.
Gilleon said that he has filed a lawsuit against the CHP and the state. If the claim isn’t settled, the lawsuit could move forward.
“We want the CHP to acknowledge that firefighters are in command,” Gilleon said of his client’s wishes. “If they don’t want to take that settlement, this claim will be litigated in court.”
Gilleon has claimed that he has proof that Flores was involved in a similar incident in 2010, in which he threatened to arrest a firefighter; it is precisely a repeat of this kind of incident that Gregoire hopes to prevent.